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25 Famous New Yorkers Who Have Changed The World

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Just like everything else in New York City, it’s luminaries are the envy of the world.

Being the center of entertainment, commerce and art make The Big Apple a prime location for a meeting of the greatest minds humanity has ever seen. And given the sheer number of world-changing people who call the city home, it’s no surprise that there would be too many to put on this list. 

So we’ve narrowed it down. While the list of luminaries who call New York home is thousands of entries long, this list encompasses some of the most world-changing personalities the 20th century has ever seen.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Named “Most Valuable Player” six times by the NBA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar established a record-setting career with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Christina Aguilera

Known for her soulful and timeless vocal sound, Christina Aguilera was a pop star who transformed the genre with songs like “Genie In A Bottle.” 

Fiona Apple

She typefied the 90’s grunge sound as one of its most popular artists, and even won a Grammy for her hit single “Criminal.” 

Marc Anthony

The Latin-music luminary is the highest-grossing salsa artist of all time, and released several smash hits including “I Need To Know.” 

Judd Apatow

Acclaimed director and producer Judd Apatow was the mind behind the iconic television show Freaks And Geeks, and many popular movies including The 40-Year Old Virgin

Hank Azaria

A man of many voices on The Simpsons, Hank Azaria also had featured roles in Friends and dozens of other movies and television shows. 

Harry Belafonte

The “King of Calypso” popularized the Jamaican musical style in the 1950’s, and since then has released hundreds of compositions and moved on to become a major figure in activism. 

Steve Buscemi

The iconic actor has featured in innumerable memorable movie roles in films such as Airheads. A little-known fact about Buscemi is that he was a New York firefighter from 1980-1984. 

Mel Brooks

The timeless comedic mind of Mel Brooks brought us such cinematic gems as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and many more. 

Al Capone

The notorious Prohibition-era gangster responsible for the slaying of many, was in fact finally sent to prison at the age of 33 for tax evasion.

Cardi B

A true New York success story, Cardi B was the first female solo artist to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album with her smash release Invasion of Privacy.

Julian Casablancas

Lead singer of the garage-rock band The Strokes, Casablancas has also worked with Daft Punk, and has another popular bank, The Voidz. 

Anderson Cooper

The television news anchor has a long-running appointment as lead anchor for CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° and 60 Minutes.

Tony Danza

Gaining national attention for his role in the 80’s hit sitcom Who’s The Boss, Tony Danza has also made cameo appearances on Broad City and several other high-profile television shows. 

Rosario Dawson

Acclaimed actress Rosario Dawson has delivered stellar performances for smash productions such as the movie adaptation of Rent, Josie And The Pussycats, and Men In Black II.

Lana Del Rey

Considered a singular voice in pop music, Lana Del Rey revolutionized radio-worthy sound with her smash album Born To Die.

Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond doesn’t need any introduction as one of the greatest crafters of song the 20th century has ever seen.

Vin Diesel

Vin Diesel has solidified a permanent place in cinematic stardom for his breakout role in Saving Private Ryan, along with his franchise roles in XXX and The Fast And The Furious.

Fran Drescher

The Nanny launched Drescher to near cult status as a comedic figure, but began her career in the equally iconic film Saturday Night Fever

Lena Dunham

Dunham launched her career as a writer, producer, and actor in the smash HBO series Girls, which afforded her two Golden Globe awards. 

Jim Gaffigan

The famous comedian has maintained a signature “clean” style of comedy and has featured in several smash-hit comedy specials including Mr. Universe

Whoopi Goldberg

The iconic television personality was launched to stardom with The Color Purple and the Sister Act series. Today, she is one of several regular hosts on The View.

Chris Rock

The comedian was a mainstay on Saturday Night Live, and has sold out stadiums across the world with his live act.

Carl Sagan

The scientist and author penned the phrase “The Pale Blue Dot” to describe our planet and its size in comparison with space. He also wrote Contact, which became a major blockbuster hit in the 1990’s. 

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